Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cherry blossoms for Easter

My internet connection is down (again) but I wanted to get a post up for Easter and the gorgeous weekend. So here is my cherry tree, which still looks like a stick with leaves, but gave me over 2 pounds of cherries last year. I wonder how this year will go?

About 2 weeks ago

Last weekend

On the north side of the house... I think it helps protect it from the heat

against the blue sky
Happy Easter! I'm using my internet-less days to get more gardening done.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Recreating Inspiration

Loree at Danger Garden posted a picture from when she went to the NW flower and garden show that really struck me. It was a combination of daffodils and ornamental grasses:
Loree's original picture...
I actually like how bright and cheery daffodils are, but I also really liked this combo. Daffodils also happen to be one of the few spring bulbs that consistently come back in our climate (or at least they seem to). I planted a bunch of bulbs in a bare area in the back garden, under the redbud tree. I wanted to try and recreate this look, especially since I had to find something to do with this giant clump of Mexican feather grass that was coming out of the front garden:

The middle died out - I think my neighbor's cat sat on it
 After some digging, that clump, plus a clump of blue fescue were out of the ground:
These had been in the ground for about three full years
 I was able to split each of the Mexican Feather grass clumps into 12 (I only used half) and the blue fescue into four pieces. After a haircut, I planted them in the backyard, where the daffodils were blooming:

You can just see the little clumps in between.
 By planting the first batch while the daffodils were blooming, I was sure I wasn't disturbing the bulbs - I can also always add more of the grass later in the year. Hopefully by this time next year, it will look somewhat similar to the picture above... We'll see how it works!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fruit Trees

This post will have very few words (maybe a "one word wednesday" post?). This is the first winter that the back garden's fruit trees (nectarine, peach, almond) have been in the ground. They all survived our cold winter, plus the fact that I don't water over the winter. Here are their blossoms, adding a pop of color to the hill:

More peach
The nectarine blossoms have a slightly different tint to them:


 Almond blossoms - the entire tree (which isn't very big) was covered by blooms 

a pop of yellow in the background from the wheel barrow

now it really looks like spring
 Too many words for "word-less" wednesday, but I'm getting there!

Signs of Spring

You know, after saying I was going to post 4 times a week, I don't think that I actually have done so. This last break was partially self-imposed (work) and partially technical difficulties (Internet down, again!). But this past weekend I had the time to go on a "gardening binge", and get back out there. Spring really does seem like it's here.

One of the unique signs of spring being here are these: - the Joshua trees are blooming!

Joshua Tree in full flowering
To get Joshua trees to flower, there needs to be the right combination of water, cold and time. Apparently, this winter was the right combination:
These weren't quite open yet, but they were big

Flowers against the blue sky
 Joshua tree flowers are pollinated by a specific moth. I didn't see any of them on this day. The flowers only open at night. Depending on who you talk to, they either smell like nothing, melted wax, or really bad.

Flower detail
Flower details
In this picture, you can see some of the left over bloom stalks. The way Joshua trees grow their branches has to do with their flowers. Once a branch blooms, it splits in two (or more) and continues to grow, until it flowers again. This makes for very interesting tree shapes:
Looking up at the tree
There are trees blooming over the city. Yet another sign that Spring is finally here. I really hope it stays! 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter Walk-Off 2013

A few weeks ago, I read about the Winter Walk-Off, hosted by Les of A Tidewater Gardener. He explains the details of his challenge in this post, and it seemed like a lot of fun! Today, after daylight savings, it was actually light enough when I came home, so I grabbed my camera and walked on of my regular running routes, and took pictures around my neighborhood.

In the last week, all the ornamental fruit trees (mostly cherry and plum) have started blooming. There a lot of them around, most planted by the city.

Flowering fruit trees
 The white ones are cherries, the pink ones (like these in my neighbor's yard) are usually ornamental plums:
So much color
 As I was walking around, I noticed this tree, with it's odd combination of new leaves and weird looking green flowers:
Not sure what this one is? I'll have to remember to go look for it later in the season
 In addition to fruit trees, there are a lot of Palms in my neighborhood. However, this past winter has not been kind to them, and most of them look pretty bad:
Every one that's like the left and center pictures that I've seen around town looks dead.
 People have started cleaning up the dead fronds in many cases, which leaves the palm looking like this:
Funny looking palm trees
 In addition to the flowering trees, the city plants the same scrubs everywhere, leading to big masses of the same plants:
The scrub in the middle always looks like its covered in mold when it blooms. I don't know what it's called.
 I like the accidental combination of red berries and blue lavender in the upper right picture of that collage. I'm pretty sure the Lavender wasn't planted there, but the combo always makes me smile.
This also makes me smile - the effect of our near constant winds on trees:
That is a very large pine tree, leaning at a 30 degree angle

Same thing on the golf course, but with smaller trees
Yes, a golf course - who thought that was a good idea in the desert?!
They must spend a large fortune in water...
Even though there is a golf course in our neighborhood, a lot of people have created xeriscaped front yards. These are some of the ones I liked:
stream bed + palo verde tree. I would replace the blue fescue, I think
 This next garden is not at its best in the winter, but it should be gorgeous in just another few weeks:
There are two purple smoke bushes in there... I want one.

Their agave bloomed last year - hopefully they replace it!
 I've always liked this house with it's giant Optunia in the front. Those pads are huge!
Plus it has more all-season interest compared to the other garden.
 This next garden took a very different approach - going for more of a "Japanese" look:
Two pines/conifers and a stream bed. All the "dirt" is actually pea gravel
 I really like the bridge over the dry stream bed. I'm trying to decide if the Japanese-style garden elements work with the Mediterranean style of the house. There was another house with this similar-style lantern:
More Japanese style
 I've been thinking about garden art for my garden, and I'm not sure what would work well. I always like these lanterns when I see them in Japanese-style gardens, but I'm not sure about them with the style of houses that are in my neighborhood. More thinking required!

Of course, there were also several approaches that I didn't like as much - most of which share the "xeriscaping = rocks" idea.
Or fake grass for the stairs. I'm sure it's more durable and uses less water, but really?
 I do like the bold color on the garage door in the bottom left, and the cactus in the center picture. However, the cactus looked dead too, so we'll see how that goes. But all of those were still more area-appropriate than lots of (green) grass and cool-weather annuals, like this garden:
very colorful/cheerful though.
 This next garden feature has always made me scratch my head - it's an allee of willows (? I think), but they seem so close together. In the summer it's very pretty though.
There's about 6 trees on either side
 On my way back, I noticed a new feature on this house's fence: what looked like glass panels.
Maybe for a windbreak? But then it's facing the wrong direction for the prevailing winds
The last thing I noticed as I was looking at my pictures were some of the tree shapes against the sky - everything from willows glowing red in the sun, to London Plane trees and their seed pods, and Italian Stone Pine holding on to cones.
I wonder what made that Plane Tree in the middle have that kind of a branch shape?
Go visit Les's page for more links to Winter Walk-Offs around the world! Soon, winter will be over, and Spring will be here for real!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Flowering Broccoli


I'm pretty sure this is my fault for not eating enough broccoli:

 At least the bees are enjoying it:
look at those pollen sacks!
 It was nice to hear them buzzing again. I need more winter-flowering plants, I think.

And maybe I need to eat more vegetables. Although I'm going to continue to mix vegetables into my ornamental plants, like using Brussels sprouts for edging in one of the beds, at least until it gets hot. I'm not even sure I like Brussels sprouts, but they look cool, so in they went. We'll see how that goes.

And as a note to myself - I planted these in late fall (November?) in the bed on the west side of the patio, and they grew all the way through winter, even though it got way colder than normal. I should remember this for next year.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Getty Cactus Gardens

I love going to the Getty Center in Santa Monica for gardening inspiration. There's two distinct "characters" to the gardens at the Getty. This is somewhat by design: the buildings and the central garden were designed by two different people, Richard Meier and Robert Irwin. The two took very different approaches to their projects; Meier is known for his grids and orderly designs (primarily architecture) and Irwin is an artist, rather than a designer or landscape architect. Combine the different styles with the fact that Meier thought he would be doing the whole project (only to later have the garden taken away from him), and you have a feud that still echoes to this day.

I've taken a tour of the Central garden led by a docent who was very much in Meier's camp - he told us all the things that were "wrong" with the design! An interesting experience to be sure.

Meier did get to design some of the gardens at the Getty - the biggest of which is the Cactus Garden, on the south side of the complex:

Cactus garden - that's the 405 on the left.
This garden has two main parts - the big round part at the end (that you can't walk in) and the staircase leading to a viewing platform, with a "forest" of Aloe and cacti trees.

The bottom portion has a few species of plants, of which Opuntia robusta, Agave americana 'Marginata', and Echinocactus grusonii stand out the most, to me:
Garden in September of 2012

Garden view in Febuary 2013, with the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora blooming

Similar view in September 2012
Senecio vitalis is used as a ground cover through out. The Agaves flower almost every year (I'm not sure how that works...) and it's fun to watch the hummingbirds fly through them. 
Agaves blooming in September 2012
 A very large number of golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) makes up the path leading up to the circle. Too bad you can't walk anywhere near them.
According to a guide, these are all seed grown.
 According to one tour docent, the gardeners weren't allowed to maintain this part of the garden for the first three years, until the guard rail was installed. I guess that means these plants are well adapted to their new environment. Supposedly, they're not watered either.

The pathway to the viewing platform is lined with forests of Aloe bainessi, Senecio vitalis and some kind of cactus that I can't identify (nothing is labeled at the Getty).
Picture of planting beds
 I'm sure someone will be able to identify this one:

The berries were on the trees in February 2013
The Aloe trees are pruned to stay this small: 
Aloe trees - I don't think I've seen these flower, ever.
 While this garden might lack the "overflowing" character of the central garden, it certainly does draw your eye to the views beyond, and the simplicity is a nice counter-point to the art inside (whether that's the paintings or the central garden). I'm trying to decide what to take as inspiration from here - it may just be appreciation of a garden I could never replicate, unless I decide to plant my neighbor's garden with golden barrels...